If there’s ever been a game that pretty much everyone has played, it’s either going to be Tetris, Minesweeper or Pokemon. Since those who care about Minesweeper are more or less non-existent, and by now Tetris has had more clones than Boba Fett, let’s focus on Pokemon and our first foray into that cute, weird, and addictive world.
Pokemon Go is taking the world by storm, and bringing a lot of people back to the franchise (at least for now). And today is Pokemon Day, so I got thinking about the first time I played Pokemon, and why I love it to this day.
A couple things before we dive in. First, I never stopped playing Pokemon. From Blue and Gold through OmegaRuby and UltraMoon, I’ve been playing what is basically the same game for over two decades. Because of these extensive qualifications, I look back on the original gen with a mixture of nostalgia and pity; like seeing the puppy you had when you were a kid succumb to arthritis in their old age. In context Red and Blue are buggy, ugly messes, and the series has vastly improved in the years since.
I’m also an absolute travesty of a fanboy. I mean it’s an obsession. Espeon and Umbreon are tattooed on my right arm. My messenger bag has a Master Ball attached. I own at least 30 Pokemon plushies, there are Mega Absol and Eeveelutions paintings in my house, and I was a qualified Trading Card Game Pokemon Professor for two years (which, yes, is a real thing). I say all this because, while I’m not exactly proud of my level of involvement, I’m certainly not ashamed.
A Gift to Remember
Anyway; it was 1998. For whatever reason, the Pokemon anime reached Ireland before the games did, so my first introduction to Pokemon was the episode with that samurai kid and his inappropriate Metapod. I had no idea what was going on, but I was 9, so I just sat back and enjoyed the bright colours.
A few weeks later, school was letting out for Christmas, and one of the kids in my class already had Red. A gaggle of us watched over his shoulder as his Nidorino took on Lorelei’s first Dewgong and got destroyed. Clearly Nidoking wasn’t on Barry’s priority list when it came to Moon Stones. And regardless, Nidorino? Come on kid, this is the Elite Four; go big or go home.
Anyway, we went home. Christmas came and my sister and I got a version of Pokemon each from our grandparents (and by grandparents, I mean my parents had gotten us things and put their names on them); she got Red, and I took Blue. I was ecstatic. Abandoning the rest of the presents, I ran upstairs and spent about ten minutes looking for my Game Boy Colour before eventually finding it on the keyboard shelf on my desk. It was lime green so, ya know, not exactly subtle. Trying to save face, I grabbed it, composed myself, pretended none of that had happened, and headed back downstairs to grab some fresh batteries.
You Only Choose Once
Starting a new game, I made many mistakes that I continue to regret. I used my real name as my Trainer ID, which was lame. I also picked Bulbasaur, the objectively worst choice (fight me). You’d think I’d never make that mistake again, and I didn’t until Pokemon Go, when I caught Bulbasaur after not seeing the clearly superior Charmander.
I’d say live and learn but, well, I didn’t.
Brock was a breeze. Leech Seed didn’t affect Bide, so I just Seeded and Growled my way to victory. In Mt Moon, I met the love of my life, Clefairy. Having no idea how rare this was, I caught and immediately evolved the fairy, who I named Phic, being under the misguided impression that it was a Psychic type. I repeat, nine years old, Gen 1. I was the Jon Snow of Kanto, knowing nothing and giving everything stupid names.
Ready and ClefAble
Phic knew Pound and Growl, but I evolved him (I assumed, since this was prior to Clefable being a female only ‘mon) before Sing could be learned, and left Mt Moon only to teach him Mega Punch from the Move Tutor nearby. On to Bill’s house, where I picked up Thunder Wave on the way and taught it to – you guessed it – Clefable. Defeating Misty with Ivysaur was simple enough thanks to Vine Whip, and Bubblebeam’s TM went to – that’s right – good ol’ Phic. I secured Phic’s place as my useless yet somehow best Pokemon outside Rock Tunnel, when I taught him Flash. Because why not?
I ditched Venusaur at level 40, just after Erika; Phic was a mighty beast at that stage. Looking back, knowing what I do now, I can see that Mega Punch was getting Same Type Attack Bonus (STAB), and the utterly broken and hilarious Special stat was what made Bubblebeam so devastating. Thunder Wave took down the speedy ones, and Flash prolonged battles enough to wear the opposition down. Hey, hindsight.
As a sidenote, I recreated this moveset for my VGC’14 team to see if it held up.The answer: kinda. My opponents had no idea what the hell I was doing and couldn’t counter it. Confusion is a weapon, friends.